The bag I want is strong enough to hold the toddler who wants to ride in Aunty Rara’s magic purse. The bag I want hangs on my shoulders, trusting that shoulders like mine are ones you can rest easy on.
But the bags in the store are, absurdly, organized by color.
What color is best for holding books? A hundred adventurers, a thousand adventures?
I run a million scenarios through my mind. Shoes. Places. People. Nail color. Seasonal flora. Current trends. It is overwhelming so I try to think differently.
A blue box keeps the Doctor contained. A blue door holds Papa God in. Blue skin held Krishna in his humanity.
The bag I want is probably blue.
I seek the blue aisle and breathe it in for a moment, stifling my constant anxiety.
The bag I want is brave, infinitely more brave than I.
The bag I want will treat me gently. It will not pull my hair or press too firmly on my skin. It will not be so intimidated by the sun that it sticks in place. It will not be so obedient to me that it lets me stick in place.
The purses in the blue aisle are organized by the mark of their maker. Some of those names are forged in fear: I avoid their deception. Fear can birth an illusion of strength, but it will not hold.
The salesperson pulls one down anyway. She runs her hands over the tiny decorative cut-outs lining the pockets. It is handmade, she says, and I know that to be true.
I’ve seen the small, punctured hands that bled to make it. How can I put all my resolutions, all my revolutions, in that bag when it is already so full of blood? How can I ask it to hold resistance at the ready, when it has only ever been taught how to hold silence disguised as peace? How can I ask it to hold all my work when it has already borne more than its fair share of labor?
She shakes the bag toward me and it seems to groan. It is tired. I would be tired, too, if I had seen the things it has seen.
“I would like a robot-made bag,” I blurt, stepping away from her offering.
Ok, the salesperson soothes, reading my body language, stepping away. She knocks a brown purse down accidentally. She tsks at it because it has found refuge in the safety of the blue aisle, but then, so have I.
I recognize the maker. I have seen the name on giant plastic cubes, full of clean water, shipped across long stretches of land. I have seen a little girl hug one of those boxes like it was a carnival teddy bear, rubbing her dry dirty face across the logo in snuggled joy, the dimples in the plastic leaving marks across her skin. She is going to name something important after the maker, she proclaims– her first born, or the first new-old plant she discovers.
That was years ago. She is studying to be a botanist now, and for all I know the maker hasn’t made purses since all the way back when I knew them. When her hands were small, when my hands were still soft, when my shoulders were still untried.
It is an old bag. I can tell because it does not match the others. I can tell because the salesperson cringes as I reach out for it.
On the outside, it is ordinary but sturdy. On the inside, it is green and sparkly.
It rests easy on me, but can stand on its own. It is wide open, no busy and tiresome locks and zippers and buttons.
It is an old bag, but it is wide awake. It is ready.
“It’s basically a dinosaur,” I tell the salesperson, and she nods in quick agreement, just to be free of me. We walk to the counter as I read the card tied to the purse, discussing the importance of clean water.
The salesperson sees my interest and smiles. “A portion of the sales supposedly go to clean water efforts, but who really knows?”
And I think how differently the world would look if everything included a picture of the hands that made it, a picture of the hands it saved.
Surely then we wouldn’t sort our purses by color?
On the recommendation of my Facebook friends, I’m posting things I took as far as I could take them right now. They seem unfinished to me and they are certainly unedited, but here’s hoping that if I pile enough straw here, someone can turn it into gold.
On a related note, for those that give through Kiva, here’s a small business woman who is trying to build furniture and a future despite a near lack of clean water: https://www.kiva.org/lend/1326142